On Tuesday of this week, something that means so very much to so very many, especially those who’ve donned a military uniform, will be honored. Flag Day commemorates the adoption of our country’s official banner on June 14, 1777, as so resolved by the Second Continental Congress. The holiday came about in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson established that date officially as what it always was unofficially going back to 1777, Flag Day.
In many communities, like Quincy, Massachusetts, a town less than 20 miles from Lynn, the town that raised my father, a future proud Marine, there will be parades honoring the flag. In Quincy’s case, a parade has been held each year since 1952, making it the longest running in the country. And you can bet the citizens of that town pride themselves on knowing the proper way to display the flag when hanging vertically in the window or on the wall, which is with the blue-starred field to the observer’s left.
As a sports fan, I can remember an event that Major League Baseball has recognized as one of the top 100 moments in the sport’s long and grand history. A player by the name of Rick Monday endeared himself to pretty much every patriotic American on the last Sunday in April of 1976. If you’re too young to remember, you can check Monday’s play on YouTube by typing in the search bar “The Greatest Play in Baseball-Rick Monday Saves the US Flag.”
Monday was playing for the Chicago Cubs on that April 25 when a couple of young folks who apparently had some type of issue with our country ran onto the outfield at Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning. One of them had an American flag and a can of lighter fluid.
As they laid the flag on the ground and doused it with fluid, before they could light a match, Monday, just a couple of years removed from the Marine Corps, in full sprint from his centerfield position, swooped in and scooped the flag up and ran it into the infield, giving it to Dodger pitcher Doug Rau who’d come out of the dugout to secure it as security was escorting the two miscreants off. Various sections of the stadium spontaneously and collectively began singing “God Bless America.”
By the next year, Monday was a Dodger, coming over in a trade, and remained a fan favorite at Dodger Stadium for the last eight years of his 19-year career. Now a Dodger broadcaster, Monday and his wife still have the flag and take it around the country and use it in their continuing efforts to raise money for military charities.
Monday, a two-time all-star and member of the 1981 Dodger World Series winners, often is asked by fans if he’s ever upset that he spent 19 years in the Majors and is primarily known for stopping two people from burning the flag, and his reply is always the same.
“Well, if that’s all I’m known for, that’s not a bad thing at all. I think it solidified the thought process of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the years that represented the country in fine fashion, many of whom lost their lives. . ””
Often, I think many tend to overlook the flag we will acknowledge this coming Tuesday, some, perhaps, only taking note of it when it’s displayed at half staff. The practice of lowering a country’s flag as a deferential sign dates back to the 17th century In 1612, the crew of the Heart’s Ease lowered the Union Jack to what is correctly referred as half mast on open waters after the ship’s captain, James Hall, perished during an expedition to Greenland.
As to the significance of a half-mast at sea and half-staff on land display, there are those who will tell you that the flag is thus ly lowered to make room for an invisible flag of death above.
Flags are lowered following the deaths of certain governmental officials as was the case last March when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright passed. The flag is also lowered in times of national distress and mourning and on certain holidays such as that last Monday of May and other remembrance holidays and also at any other time the President deems appropriate to lower it.
The proper procedure in displaying a flag at half mast and half staff is to raise the flag to its peak before lowering it. At day’s finish, if the flag is not spotlighted and is taken down, it should also be raised to its peak before its descent.
During the busy lives most of us, including myself, lead, we often don’t pay particular attention to our nation’s most important symbol, a symbol still capable of putting a lump in the throat of any military man or woman. Well, this Tuesday , let’s raise both our eyes to the flag and our awareness of the flag.
And, even though it’s a Tuesday, let’s also turn a thought or two to that man named Monday.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]